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Maine wildlife sometimes tries to bite off more than it can chew.

At first glance, it appears as though the featured creature in today’s contributed video might fit into that category. But as you’ll see, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Richard Spinney of Brewer graciously sent along his video of a great blue heron that he spotted from Red Bridge in Orrington, which spans a marshy area between Fields Pond and Brewer Lake.

The heron, stationed in the muck along the water’s edge, demonstrates its hunting prowess as it plucks an unsuspecting fish from the water.

Spinney has spent enough time watching birds to know that something was up.

“I was looking for mallards, maybe some loons,” he said. “When I saw the heron, one of two that were there, I recognized the behavior as it seeking a meal.”

Spinney said when the heron stopped walking and was focusing on a specific spot, he believed the bird had found its prey.

“That’s when I started recording. I had set the camera at 120 frames per second so the entire video plays back at either 1/2 or 1/4 speed, depending upon the playback frames per second,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Spinney wasn’t caught by surprise when he saw what the great blue heron had snatched.

“I have observed other great blue herons eating, but those fish were a mere inch or two long,” he said, noting that this one was considerably larger.

The heron shook the fish in its blade-like bill several times before starting the process of putting it in position and swallowing it whole.

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In a July 2021 blog on the Natural Resources Council of Maine website, Jeff Wells and Allison Wells provided some observations about the heron’s eating habits.

“Although small fish are a staple of the Great Blue Heron diet, they won’t hesitate to take a larger fish if the opportunity presents itself,” they wrote. “As surreal as it may seem, Great Blue Herons have occasionally choked to death when they captured and tried, unsuccessfully, to swallow a fish that wouldn’t fit all the way down through their gullets.”

Great blue herons stand 3.2 to 4.5 feet tall and have a wingspan of 5.5 to 6.6 feet, according to National Geographic. They weigh between 4.6 and 7.3 pounds.

Herons prefer to eat fish but, according to audubon.org, also will consume frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, rodents and birds.

Many thanks to Richard Spinney for the awesome look at the hungry heron!

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...